I wasn't terribly excited about thirty. I spent quite a lot of time not being excited about turning thirty.
A good long while ago someone left a comment somewhere that was either to me or about me (in that way that people occasionally discuss you as though you aren't there) and it was something along the lines of: She seems great, but god I hope I don't end up in her position: nearing thirty and... (insert any number of things here). And oof. That stung. Because, well, yeah. Me neither. This is not the life I chose for myself. This is not the life I imagined or planned or dreamt of. But it's the life I have.
I flew to Chicago in the middle of August because I thought, If not New York, somewhere else. But it didn't feel quite right. Or, well, I didn't.
A guy from work told me that thirty would be great, but--in relation to dating--men would experience some sticker shock. This did not sound ideal.
And then a dear friend told me I had to figure out a way to make peace with the city. No, no, I just don't like New York, I said. It's no more complicated than that. And she smiled at me, sipped the drink in front of her, and said, Yeah, I get that, I totally do. But still, she said, there's more to it.
I don't know what actually happened, but three weeks before thirty something something clicked and I turned a corner.
And so this is what I want to say:
Fear isn't so large anymore. Which means faith doesn't feel like a leap, so much as the soft earth beneath my feet--grounding and fertile and boundless.
I remember turning twenty and sitting in my tiny dorm room at Juilliard, sadness creeping in for the first time. Thank God I didn't know what was in store for me.
The twenties are hard. The twenties are so, so hard. Everyone who is not in their twenties says this. And everyone who is in their twenties knows this. But when you are in the middle of that decade, hearing people who are not in the middle of it say, Yeah, it's rough isn't terribly helpful. But then you start to crest upon a new decade and you think, Holy shit! The twenties are so, so, so, so hard, but the view from up here is incredible!
And suddenly it is all worth it.
I have never felt more beautiful. I have never felt smarter. I have never felt more valuable. I have never been so sure of what I have to offer. I have never been so at peace with my body, so safe in my own skin. I have never cared less, what people I don't care about, think of me. Everything feels lighter, easier. What was never personal is--for the first time--actually not personal.
But I think more than anything, the real change is this: I'm no longer afraid of what comes next (or doesn't). In so many ways my twenties were defined by a fear of the future--a fear that the future did not exist to me. Not that time would stop, or that I wouldn't get a crack at it, but that nothing would ever change; that good things were impossible. And that very real terror caused me to clench down hard on EVERYTHING.
But then, three weeks from thirty, I looked around at the innumerable blessings in my life and I marveled at their ability to multiply. And I thought about the possibility of a few different specific somethings and I took a breath and thought, If not this, something else. A perpetual something-else.
Because good things do happen. Because there is a grace to the chaos of the universe. Because string theory is a thing. Because I am human--flawed and imperfect and made of flesh--which is to say soft and mutable. Because we've got one crack at a this--so far as I know--and I'll be damned if I don't swing for the fences. Because there is no such thing as perfection. And very often the things we fear most are not only bearable, but transformative.
We will all, many times over, have to reconcile the life we planned with the life we've got. And usually the life we've got is better.
The night before my birthday a dear friend brought a bottle of champagne over. You are going to saber this, he said to me. I gave him a look. It's a particular sort of thrill, his fiancee assured me. Sabering a bottle of champagne (sabrage is the technical term) is a way a fancy (and fun way) to uncork a champagne bottle. The long and short of it is this (and please don't attempt to do this based on my description): you find the very faint seam on the backside of a cold bottle and you take the blunt edge of a hefty kitchen knife (assuming you don't have a saber; I don't) and with a good dose of force you hit under the lip at the base of the neck. And if you get it right, you cleanly take off the top part of the bottle, cork and glass in one. It is a terrifying thing to attempt the first go round, but holy heck, it really is a particular sort of thrill--the sound and feel, deeply satisfying. What occurs to me, is that it seems impossible. Having never done it before, it seems impossible! But the science is such that the bubbles within actually make it pretty easy. The trick is you can't do it half-heartedly. You have go full force and follow through. And you have to trust what you can't see: that the bubbles are actually in there. That they'll do their job.
The view from up here is incredible.
I don't know what thirty will bring, but I do know this: there will be plenty. And my job is to trust the work of my twenties and to hit the lip as hard as I can when given the chance. So I'm okay with the sticker shock because--the thing is--at thirty, I'm worth more. A better brand, a better model, a finer bottle of champagne.
And New York is ever so much easier. Not because it is, but because I am.